I don’t think I am what you would call a dyed-in-the-wool patriot. I don’t own an American flag unless you count the little ones people put out on the Fourth of July.
My father was in the Pacific during World War II. An uncle, along with hundreds of fellow Marines, took Iwo Jima. Another uncle was in Korea. Tommy Franks was in my high school class. Friends served in Viet Nam. The Star Bangled Banner always gives me chills. I value what has gone before. I don’t think all wars are necessary.
Yesterday, at the invitation of a client who is a fund-raiser and volunteer for the Carry the Load walk, I went to the Katy Trail. This has become a yearly event in Dallas, started by Clint Bruce and Stephen Holley, two former Navy SEALS and Dallas residents who wanted to reinforce the meaning of Memorial Day by focusing on those who gave their lives for our freedom. Over 10,000 participants walked for 20 hours and 14 minutes, over night, to honor friends, family, and total strangers who served in the military and as first responders.
Almost every light post along the 7 mile route bears a huge placard about someone, with a photo, name, and details of service and death, along with the name(s) of those who walk to remember. As I stopped to read each one I passed, I was brought to tears by the faces – most just kids – and by their willingness to be sent into harm’s way for something they believed in. Many in the modern day armed services enlist to get an education, training for life after the military. Makes no difference. When called upon, they went and serviced and died.
Many others came home, injured – some beyond repair. One veteran walking yesterday was burned over 50% of his body. You just want to go up and throw your arms around him. It is shocking to learn that many of the women veterans who return to civilian life are jobless and homeless, often with young children to care for. This fact and the information coming out about the medical care received by veterans of all ages is obscene to me. These men and women deserve to come home to a home, have a job, get the medical attention they need for as long as they need it. That is the least this country can do.
I was humbled to witness Carry the Load. Grateful to everyone out there, from organizers to volunteers to family and friends to military, firefighters and police…kids, dogs, wagons filled with rocks painted red, white and blue to make the walk more difficult, people being pushed in wheelchairs, patriotic t-shirts, flags of all sizes everywhere. It was quiet in places with lone walkers buried under enormous backpacks. It was jovial it other places, with groups of people walking in joy and gratitude. It was emotional everywhere even with only some country western or Chaka Khan playing at Water Station Number 4.
Maybe I’m more of a patriot than I thought.
Legacy Sport & Wellness Center wants to thank Legacy Team Members Pete Bibby, a volunteer who walks to raise money for Carry the Load ,and Lyn Berman, Director of Attitudes and Attire, who this year took on the task of training and outfitting women veterans in the Dallas area so they can find meaningful work and a safe place to call home.